Rigaud flood victims ordered not to drink well water
Officials say septic tanks are likely contaminating nearby artesian wells
Officials in Rigaud, Que., the town hardest hit by flooding this week, are ordering people in the flood zone not to drink any water from their wells. They are concerned it is tainted.
"The water from any private well in a flooded area should be considered unsuitable until further notice," said a statement issued late Friday evening from the municipality.
Officials say septic tanks are likely contaminating nearby artesian wells.
They are urging residents to use bottled water. If people can't access bottled water, they can consume their well water only if it is clear and has been boiled for at least one minute.
Police and firefighters plan to start going door to door Saturday to check on residents.
The town, with 343 homes either flooded or surrounded by water, remained under a state of emergency Friday.
Some 53 municipalities have experienced enough flooding this week to qualify for provincial aid, according to a news release issued by the Quebec government.
That's in addition to another 19 municipalities already eligible for financial assistance after being hit by flooding earlier this spring.
Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux called it an "exceptional year."
"We have a number of factors that have happened in conjunction that explain that but it's a particularly tough year," he said.
He said during a news conference Friday afternoon that the provincial government is working with Rigaud to closely monitor water levels and the province will also let residents know what kind of financial aid they are entitled to if their homes are damaged.
"The last time we had such a flood was in 1998, so it's a very serious one but the municipality is in control," he said. "Our main concern obviously and our efforts are toward maintaining and assuring the safety of the people."
Mayor urges residents to leave
On Thursday, Rigaud officials told some residents to leave their homes as roads and houses began to flood.
Around 7,500 people live in the municipality, which is located 25 kilometres west of the island of Montreal.
Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said with more rain falling on Friday, he couldn't guarantee emergency services to those residents who refused to leave their homes.
The town advised locals to head to the library if they needed a safe place to stay. Family pets aren't being allowed in the library, but a number of local kennels have been offering discounted rates.
Resident Georges Landry is refusing to seek refuge, instead opting to stay in Rigaud to help his neighbours.
"We're trying to save what we can," said Landry.
Gruenwald said he's aware some residents are ignoring the evacuation order. He said he was particularly concerned about water flooding septic tanks and creating an unsanitary environment.
"We don't want to get to a position where we have to start to force evacuating them at two o'clock in the morning in the dark," said Gruenwald.
There are no immediate plans to call in the police to force evacuations.
If anyone needs to reach the municipality in the event of an emergency, they can call 450-451-0869, extension 235. During the overnight hours, they can call 311.
In Montreal, the city is keeping its website updated with the latest flood information.
The situation on just one of the many flooded streets in Rigaud this morning, where there's a state of emergency over flooding. <a href="https://t.co/sWsAdqVhaD">pic.twitter.com/sWsAdqVhaD</a>—@salimah_shivji
In the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, minor flooding has been reported, but the situation is under control, according to city officials. In the L'île-Bizard-Sainte-Geneviève borough, sandbags have been distributed to residents. Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue are listed as "high-risk," but no flooding has been reported.
The Rivières des Prairies area is also considered a high risk for flooding. In Laval, volunteers are going door-to-door to inform residents in certain areas of Sainte-Dorothée and Laval-sur-le-Lac about the risks of local flooding.
Rainfall double the normal amount
Thibodeau said Montreal has received double the average rainfall so far in April. The average for this month is 67.7 millimetres, but even before the precipitation accumulated over the last 24 hours, there had already been 130 millimetres of rain this month.
"We're well over the normal," said Thibodeau.
According to Hydro-Météo, a non-governmental agency that monitors water levels, the river levels in the greater Montreal area remain very high.
Rainfall in western Quebec caused higher levels in the greater Montreal region.
Hydro-Météo says depending on rainfall, river levels could start to decrease as of Sunday.
With files from Kalina Laframboise and Sabrina Marandola